I recently attended a Fire Course in Rotorua together with 13 other volunteer recruits. Most of them were from cities or towns with a reticulated water supply, to which they can easily connect stand pipes into the local water mains in case of a fire or emergency. Conversations followed during which it would come up, that in our area, Matakana (as with many other areas in this readership) there is no reticulated water supply. The inevitable question would be asked, ‘where do you get your water from then?’ Clearly if some fire fighters are unsure of where to source water in a rural location, then you, the public, will be equally unsure. The following will assist in providing the answers.
The Matakana fire truck carries approximately 3000 litres. On arrival at a fire this will be the first water used. However, if two hoses are operating at full capacity, this is only sufficient water for about three minutes. This is not a long time if faced even with a small fire. Most fire trucks will carry a similar quantity of water. At Matakana Station we have the good fortune to have a water tanker which can be dispatched to jobs carrying a further 13,000 litres. However this water can also run out quickly and it is imperative to establish a further source of water as soon as possible.
Fire trucks carry portable pumps which can be easily lifted, carried and positioned to draw water from a static water supply such as swimming pools, water tanks and creeks. The water will be transferred by hose back to the fire truck, tanker or direct to the fire if in a remote location. The pumps are petrol driven and a long suction hose can be dropped into the water source to a depth of several metres. Once pumped out, the water is transferred under pressure to its intended destination. If a long distance is to be covered in the case of a scrub or forest fire, then portable dams can be set up and the water pumped into the dam. Multiple dams and pumps can be used at intervals until the water reaches the required destination.
So if there is a fire close to you, it is prudent and appreciated by the attending fire crew that they are advised as early as possible of nearby water options. Such options may not be clearly apparent to the crew who may be unfamiliar with the location, terrain or darkness. Often the water source is only required as a backup, as the last thing the crew will want to do is drain a property owner’s water tank of its valuable contents. Just remember, it is much easier and cheaper to refill a water tank than to rebuild or replace a fire damaged house. As always I hope this information is ‘not required’ in reality.